(Anonymous) Guest Post
As the mother of a child who was sexually abused by her father, I frequently find myself being asked questions that I consider…well… odd.
But to the Foreigner [the word I use to describe someone who has no idea of the pain we’ve lived through, and praise the Lord, will never understand], the question seems appropriate.
Recently I was asked, “Any idea how you could have prevented it [IT…aka…the stealing of my child’s innocence]; not to blame, just with the benefit of hindsight?”
While at first the question stumped me, and then immediately infuriated me, I am honestly grateful to have been asked. [Could I have prevented IT?]
First and foremost, what I wouldn’t give to have prevented it.
Honestly, there’s nothing, including my own life, that I wouldn’t trade to take IT away from my daughter. And while that’s not possible, neither was preventing it.
You see, the only 100% effective form of prevention would have been to never have had my daughter… or maybe to have handcuffed myself to her for her entire life, praying that I’d never fall asleep. Both options…absolutely ridiculous.
The non-offending parent many times is a victim too.
The feelings of guilt, shame, and ignorance that come with questions like this [and more so, the self-reflective questions, like, “How did I miss this?”] are often overlooked when the Foreigners begin to wrestle with the concept that a parent is capable of abusing his/her child, and the other parent is capable of not knowing it is happening.
The Foreigners must understand that only the offending parent makes the choice to hurt the child.
He/she acts alone, selfishly, with only his/her personal desires in mind.
The damage done in my daughter’s case was done by her single-minded father who chose to steal from his own child, in the early morning hours while I was sleeping.
Or when I was at work, teaching others how to recognize the signs of child abuse, as a Parent Educator in a birth to 5 parent education program. [No blame felt here, Foreigner.]
Hindsight is a blessing and a curse.
Were there things I saw before I knew of the abuse that I now realize were signs? Absolutely. Could I have proved it then? Not a chance in the world. But… learn from me, red flags are red flags for a reason.
If there’s something you notice, something you feel that just isn’t right, pay attention…pause. Simply pause and pay attention when something doesn’t seem right. Perhaps you’ll find something you fear is actually there.
Perhaps you’ll save your child from their own personal hell.
So, my Foreigner friend, while I may not have prevented my daughter’s abuse, I can 100% tell you it never happened again from the day she cried out for help on May 7, 2009. That’s our May Day. We celebrate it.
We celebrate the day darkness was brought to light and the day she had the courage to free herself from her abuse.
In the last ten years, working with support groups and helping other moms navigate the world of raising a child who has been sexually abused, there’s one thing I’ve learned for sure.
Not all non-offending parents do the right thing when they discover the abuse.
I don’t understand it, and I have zero tolerance for those who choose their husbands over their children.
This reality breaks my heart into a million pieces. How can this be? How can a mother know it is happening and turn the other way? But statistically, the bottom line is, it happens more times than not.
So the next time you meet a mom who has a child that was sexually abused, for just one moment, refrain from asking the gazillion questions running through your mind.
Instead, simply thank her. Thank that mom for boldly abandoning her own life for her child. Thank her for doing whatever it takes to keep her child safe. Thank her for preventing her child from ever being abused again.
The woman who wrote the above essay, this brave mother, is my friend.
The Foreigner who asked the question, “Any idea how you could have prevented it?” was me, Diane. I am both mortified and thankful that I asked her this question.
Now I have a question for you.
Are you repulsed by the thought of parent-child incest? You should be.
Do you think it’s rare? If so, you’re wrong.
Just this week an amazing organization in West Virginia reached out to me: The West Virginia Child Advocacy Network. The folks at WVCAN saw my blog posts regarding childhood sexual abuse on April 5 and April 12 and wanted to thank me for shining a light on the topic. Then at my request, they supplied their 2018 statistics on child abuse in the Mountain State. Brace yourself.
Last year the 21 Child Advocacy Network offices in West Virginia served 4,445 kids.
- 58% of the children served were there because of allegations of sexual abuse.
- 31% of the children served were under the age of six-years-old.
- 99% of alleged offenders were someone the child knew.
- 44% of alleged offenders were the child’s parent.
- 18% of the children are reported to have one or more disability.
- 573 cases had charges filed.
- 298 individuals were convicted for crimes against children.
This article on the US News & World Report website calls childhood sexual abuse, “The Silent Epidemic,” stating, “… it’s surmised that nearly 42 million people are living with a history of sexual abuse during childhood, roughly twice as many people as are living with cancer.”
Faced with this epidemic,
What can you do?
- Like the mother up above said, “Pause and pay attention when something doesn’t seem right.”
- Be on the lookout for typical signs of abuse.
- Contribute to organizations like WVCAN.
- Support (with your time or money) organizations like Libera who LISTEN to teens (and women) in crisis and connect them to resources.
- Strive to maintain an open dialogue with your own kids so if they, or one of their friends, ever experience abuse of any kind—sexual, physical, emotional–they will hopefully come to you for help.
Now, about those parents who “choose their partner over their child…”
The state of West Virginia is prepared to prosecute such individuals under WV Code 61-8D-5 which deals with:
§61-8D-5. Sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, custodian or person in a position of trust to a child; parent, guardian, custodian or person in a position of trust allowing sexual abuse to be inflicted upon a child…
The state will find such individuals guilty of a felony, with fines up to $10,000, in addition to incarceration in a correctional facility up to 20 years.
Stacy M. Deel, the Awareness & Development Specialist at the West Virginia Child Advocacy Network says,
“Lastly, if anyone suspects abuse, they should report it to CPS (800-352-6513) and their local law enforcement immediately.”
Deel also provided this link to a PDF with additional information on this topic.
In conclusion, please, please do what you can to protect the children in your life.